Former Two Wells girl, Luisa Panetta, has returned from her veterinary trip to South Africa with a strengthened passion to be part of wildlife medicine and conservation.
The trip, organised by the University of Adelaide, was the first of its kind, with Luisa’s veterinary group the first group from Roseworthy College to embark on the trip.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I gained practical skills in wildlife medicine in the field, and worked with the most amazing group of people,” said Luisa.
There were many highlights for Luisa, but also some low points as she saw first hand, the result of rhino poaching.
”We saw two rhinos which had been shot for their horns. Fortunately we could treat their wounds, and dehorned them which will hopefully deter the poachers.”
Dehorning is done routinely by veterinarians in South Africa to deter poachers from killing rhinos.
Poaching of black and white rhinos is of major concern and although Luisa had heard and read about it, she found the firsthand experience very confronting.
There were some scary moments too, including handling a black mamba snake, considered Africa’s largest venomous snake.
“It’s not the number one most poisonous in Africa, but it’s up there, and that experience would be near the top of the most scariest things I have done!”
The group also ventured on field trips including a day trip to the most exciting African safari destination, Kruger National Park where they saw the “big 5” – elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo.
“I enjoyed the field trips and even got to ride an elephant!”
“Capturing giraffes was the best part of the trip. It involved a vet darting a giraffe from a helicopter, with a great team of well trained people on the ground who would catch the giraffe using ropes to guide it safely into sternal recumbency (that means to a lying down position,) and then it was translocated to another property,” said Luisa.
The Roseworthy veterinary group learnt about different anaesthetic protocols used in different species, including giraffe, impala, white rhinos and water buffalo.
“I learnt you have to anticipate and be ready for the unexpected, because wild animals are ‘wild’ and you just have to adapt.”